Definitions and Guidance on Their Uses, issued November 20, 2008;

Definition of Poverty

OMB first issued Statistical Policy Directive No. 14—Definition of Poverty for Statistical Purposes in 1969. The directive adopted the poverty thresholds first defined by Mollie Orshansky of the Social Security Administration for 1963 for different categories of families defined by size, number of children, gender of the family head, and farm-nonfarm residences. It specified that these thresholds would be updated each year for the change in the Consumer Price Index and compared with families’ total money income as measured in the Current Population Survey. The directive was reissued in 1978; additional minor modifications were made to the poverty thresholds beginning in 1982 (see

Data on Race and Ethnicity

OMB first issued Statistical Policy Directive No. 15—Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting in 1977. It specified a minimum set of racial and ethnic categories for reporting of race and ethnicity on federal surveys and in administrative records systems. It recommended two separate questions—one on ethnicity (Hispanic or non-Hispanic) and one on race (white, black, Asian or Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaska Native), or, alternatively, a combined question that included Hispanic as a category. The U.S. census has historically included additional categories within the two-question format. Following an intensive research, testing, and consultation process, OMB issued revised Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity on October 30, 1997 (see The updated directive retains a two-question format, includes separate categories for Asians and for Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders, and allows respondents to select more than one racial category.

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